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ANALYSIS: Will Big Tech Stop Trump From Running In 2024?

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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Facebook and Twitter could put a stop to former President Donald Trump’s ambitions to win back the White House.

Trump has made it clear he’s strongly considering another run for the Oval Office. His first two campaigns were powered, in large part, by a dominant social media presence that he no longer has access to.

Republicans have made a habit of complaining about Big Tech in recent years. The primary complaints have been about censorship of conservative voices and positively-biased treatment of liberal narratives and figures.

If Big Tech kneecaps a potential Trump 2024 campaign, it would be Silicon Valley’s biggest slight yet on the GOP. Given how important social media was to Trump’s political ascent, it’s entirely possible that a permanent ban from Facebook and Twitter could kill the MAGA movement for good. (RELATED: ANALYSIS: Big Tech’s Plan To Silence The Former Leader Of The Free World Is Working)

Facebook played an integral role in Trump’s 2016 run for the presidency. His staffers have said as much. Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2016 digital director and 2020 campaign manager, described Facebook as the “highway which his car drove on” when speaking about the 2016 strategy employed by Trump.

Trump was able to harness digital advertising in a way no other candidate had before. It’s been well documented that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heavily outspent Trump in the campaign as a whole, particularly on legacy mediums like television. But Trump dumped tens of millions of dollars on digital advertising campaigns, particularly on Facebook, helping lift him to victory.

Trump’s campaign micro-targeted their ads to tens of thousands of different segments of voters, creating a new way of tackling online outreach. Now, with the former president banned indefinitely from Facebook, that key tool in his arsenal isn’t available for a possible 2024 run. To win again, he would have to forge a new path, unable to recreate the success of 2016.

Twitter and Facebook bans obviously make it much more difficult for Trump to spread his message. He amassed a whopping 88 million followers on Twitter before being banned, making him the sixth-most followed person on the platform. Add to that 35 million more followers on Facebook and millions more on YouTube, and Trump was frequently able to drive entire news cycles by simply typing a few sentences from his smartphone.

The newfound limit on Trump’s messaging ability could rear its head before 2024. Trump has made it no secret that he wants to play a kingmaker role in the GOP in 2022, and he’s gone out of his way to encourage primary challengers against Republicans who have crossed him like Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Without the ability to advertise on Facebook, Trump will have less ability to add fuel to the engine of the primary challengers he backs. (RELATED: Twitter Is Suspending Accounts That Post Donald Trump’s Statements From His Website)

It may also be more challenging for the former president to attract massive crowds to his signature campaign rallies, which will reportedly begin happening again in June. Before, Facebook users in the vicinity of Trump’s rallies were peppered with ads for free tickets in the days leading up to the events.

Trump has countered the social media bans with what is essentially a personal blog, but it isn’t the same as his Twitter feed. His messages have to be shared out by third-parties like influencers and media outlets instead of going straight from the source into the social media feeds of his followers.

That’s a problem for him. With Trump now relying more on mainstream channels to disseminate his posts, some of his followers aren’t as engaged. A recent Politico report featured conversations with Trump supporters who were less sure where the former president stood on certain issues, such as primary campaigns, due to their inability to get the news directly from the source himself.

“It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy if you tell your supporters not to trust the media,” said Republican political operative Eric Wilson. (RELATED: ‘An Embarrassment To Our Country’: Trump Flames Big Tech Just Hours Before His Facebook Ban Was Upheld)

There’s evidence that Trump’s standing within the Republican Party, and the American public at-large, has slipped since he was banned from social media. A recent NBC News poll found that his approval rating had fallen to just 32%, and 50% of Republicans said they were more loyal to the party than they were to him, compared to 44% who said the opposite.

Perhaps the most critical impact the bans could have on Trump is on his fundraising ability. Trump’s massive spending on digital ads was an investment that paid off with huge fundraising hauls from small donors, and the ability to micro-target his most fervent supporters on Facebook was a key part of that effort.

People in Trump’s orbit have reportedly told Politico that his continued ban from Facebook has them concerned about his ability to raise funds for another presidential run. He had the strongest email and phone number list in Republican politics, they said. Now, it’s far harder to keep that list up-to-date and grow it, without being able to access the goldmine of voters and data offered by Facebook.

In many ways, Trump’s meteoric political rise wouldn’t have been possible without social media and the Big Tech companies he lambasts. Now, the tables have turned, and the likes of Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg may ultimately have the final say over a former president’s political destiny.